Content distribution & Facebook’s new role for publishers

I just came back from a two day workshop in Salzburg, with many discussions and insights about content, its distribution, where to host it and the future role of brands in content creation.

At the same time, Facebook launched “Instant Articles” on Android (more about this in the second half of the post). Therefore I‘ve decided to share my thoughts and would be very interested in other approaches and ideas on this topic.

Originally for many brands, one of the main goals for their social media presence was and is still, to lead traffic to their own websites and use social channels as a traffic-driver.
This enables brands to get more insights about their consumers, enables them to cross-link to more content or make users shop within their online stores.

This approach though, is somewhat shifting right now, as Facebook expands its features and offers more opportunities for users to consume and do more within the social platform.
Whether it’s shopping (via Canvas or Shop Sections), messaging, discovering and attending events, calling someone, watching videos and now even read articles.

It’s up for discussion whether to lead people to your own brand website, where you can learn more about the user, see how they behave and crosslink them to more content or the online shop, or offering all your content within Facebook, without the need of leaving the platform.

Offering content on Facebook has the advantage that Facebook pushes content that is hosted within its platform more (for instance videos) and the content piece will quite likely generate more reach than if you simply add a link e.g. to a video but have the video hosted on your website.

In my opinion we have to rethink the way we work with Facebook. It’s not so much about owned and non-owned channels anymore, it’s more about how you can reach people that are relevant for you and create touchpoints with them. Once you created these touchpoints, you can bring your consumers from like to love — so from a like or a click on a photo or video, further to your channels to consume more of your content and build a long lasting relationship.

Lets have a look at an example: a video

If you have a short video, I would suggest you to host it as a native video on Facebook as opposed to a link to a video on YouTube or your website, as Facebook is clearly favouring content from its own platform in the News Feed. So if it’s just about users seeing this video, this is the way to reach them.
If you have a longer video or additional content to present, I would suggest the following:
As humans have a very short attention span (in average 8 seconds — which means even a goldfish can hold a thought for longer), I would natively host a short version of the video on Facebook and create a relevant CTA at the end of that video which enables users who want to watch the full episode, buy the featured product, download an app or read more, to go to your website.
Like this the first contact and „introduction“ has been made and the relationship has started. Now users are more likely to take an action outside of Facebook.
Instead if you would post a link to an externally hosted video, firstly Facebook wouldn’t push it, so you would not even be able to start the “relationship” with your target audience. Secondly you don’t have the option to add a CTA at the end of the video, so users might just not take the extra effort to click somewhere else again.

Same goes for articles. People consume Facebook mostly on their mobile and on the go. So rethink the way you use Facebook to tease your articles. Push for instance a short video, or a cool graphic on Facebook that grabs the readers attention and makes him or her want to read more about the topic and for instance tell him/her to save the article for later, once the user has more time.

Now this topic is again becoming more interesting with the release of Facebook’s instant articles for Android.

Many publishers as well as brands struggle with serving content in a way that users can consume it nicely on mobile.

Facebook became well aware of this, and is itself suffering from it as it wants to play an increasingly important role in how people discover the news they read every day and to come up with a good experience for consumers.

Now Facebook is offering those publishers a deal: Publishers send them their articles and Facebook integrates them into their platform and presents them to people that find them relevant and lets users consume the publisher’s content with high speed and quality without having to leave the social network.

For publishers, this is on one hand a great opportunity to reach more readers, taking into consideration that for many digital publishers Facebook has become No. 1 source of traffic. On the other hand it also sends a cold chill down the collective spine of publishers, both traditional and digital alike. If Facebook’s mobile app hosted publishers’ pages, the relationship with customers, most of the data about what they did and the reading experience would all belong to the social platform. Media companies would essentially be serfs in a kingdom that Facebook owns.

An interesting point was mentioned by David Bradley, who owns and leads the Atlantic Media Company, in an article from the NT Times written by @carr2n.

He says he has an excellent relationship with Facebook and profits nicely from the traffic the site generates. But also says the next battle for control over content is a significant one, not so much mandated by Facebook as by consumer preference.

“Increasingly, people would rather have their news curated by friends rather than editors,” he said. “Facebook technology may create a better reader experience than publishers can match — pages that load better and better page design.”

Also I am very curious to see if, or let’s better say when and how, Facebook is going to adapt the system for brands, not just media publishers, as well, to get the opportunity to host instant articles on Facebook.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this and hear how you approach this debate.

Curious optimist currently designing culture and community programs + tools at Dropbox. Writing about community, future of work and out of office culture.

Curious optimist currently designing culture and community programs + tools at Dropbox. Writing about community, future of work and out of office culture.